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June 3, 2004

Stephen Ames


TODD BUDNICK: Welcome Stephen Ames after a 3-under 69 today. Stephen, the bigger picture coming into the week, your last six events, five Top 10s and T13, that must be some of the best golf you've ever played.

STEPHEN AMES: I'm playing good golf. I've been staying in the top of my golf swing a lot more, and also the confidence has been a big boost for me this year. I'm just playing golf. I'm enjoying it.

TODD BUDNICK: You started the day fantastic, three straight pars and five birdies. On a day like today you've got to be very happy with it.

STEPHEN AMES: I'm very happy with it. Even though the way I finished was unfortunate, but that's golf.

TODD BUDNICK: Talk about the course conditions out there.

STEPHEN AMES: As usual, they're in great condition, other than the fact that it's a bit wet out there on the fairways. You tended to get a couple mud balls. We all got a couple mud balls all day. They said it was borderline if it was a good call or not a good call. I'm not going to make that decision on that. With the wind the way it was, swirling on certain holes, it was playing opposite of what you thought it should be doing. That made it very difficult for club selection, also.

Q. You made some mention about the greens.

STEPHEN AMES: As the day went on, the greens got dried out and firm -- not firm, just faster, faster to putt.

Q. Stephen, what was the distance on your pitch after you were down in the valley there, and what were you trying to do with that? Did you obviously want to stop it sooner than it did?

STEPHEN AMES: Yeah, obviously. I think with the pin as close as it is tucked to the back right there, you want to hit something harder than something high, too soft, because it'll come back to you. I have to guard against that. If I hit the right shot it was going to be five, six feet past the hole, a chance for par.

Q. You had, what, 30, 35 yards, something like that?


Q. I'm sure you've been asked this during this stretch of play, but is there anything you can point to, any changes, any swing keys, anything you've done differently that's got you on this great run of golf?

STEPHEN AMES: Over the last year and a half the swing keys have become the same ones that I've had for almost two years now, and with me -- even with Dennis Sheehy, my coach, we've both noticed that over the last stretch of six, eight months, it's little maintenance that we have to work on, little things that we have to work on right now. When I come back out it takes me probably an hour or two and I've got my game and my swing back in the fields there already, which is nice, because when I go home I literally do not play golf, not because of the fact I live in Calgary, it's just because I don't want to play golf. I want to get away from it so I can come out here and be fresh.

Q. Anybody back home noticing your run or are they noticing the flames?

STEPHEN AMES: No, everybody is noticing it. It's probably not the first-page headlines, but it's definitely coffee talk, yes. Calgary is too much of a hockey city, so we'll see what happens.

Q. What are your plans for watching the game?

STEPHEN AMES: I'm going to watch it tonight, definitely. I'll either stay in the room or go to a bar and watch it there.

Q. When was the last time -- you mentioned this is the kind of golf you're accustomed to playing. When was the last time you felt you were playing at this level, whether in college, mini-tours or whatever?

STEPHEN AMES: I've been told this, that my ball-striking has always been there. The absence of the short game and putter has always been the ones that have let me down. That's given me the momentum to maybe have one bad shot in a round and not being able to get it up-and-down, and this year we've worked harder on the short game than before and we've worked on the putting, also. Those things are the things that we've been working on and that have been carrying us through for the play that we've had this year, and ball-striking is still the same. If not, it's gotten a little better. Obviously with a little bit more confidence, I feel like there are flags I can go at, which is what I feel like I did today. I went at every flag because the greens were soft, and knowing if I went for every flag, whether it was long or short, I could get it up-and-down. That's a nice feeling to have.

A lot of good players play that way. Gary Player was one of them. He worked hard on his short game so he felt like he could get it up-and-down.

Q. Is this the most fun you've ever had playing golf?

STEPHEN AMES: It's become a little bit more of a free-wheeling type of thing now. At this stage, the driver that I've had since the end of last year with Nike, the Ignite driver, has made a massive difference in my game. My stats have gone up drastically distance-wise and accuracy-wise. How well you're hitting the ball from the fairway and the rough, especially on this golf course.

TODD BUDNICK: We went through your front nine. Let's go through what you had on the back. Start with the birdie on 10.

STEPHEN AMES: I hit driver, 6-iron, to about eight feet there.

TODD BUDNICK: Bogey on 13?

STEPHEN AMES: That was one of my mud balls that ended up going right into the trap. I actually hit it through the green back into the other trap, and I hit it to about six inches there. That's the part of the game that's always been the key for me there, being able to get up-and-down when I needed it.

14, I didn't birdie that. 14 was a par 4, made par.

15, I hit a good drive up the middle there, 212, hit 5-iron just on the fringe. It didn't bounce down and go onto the green. It was probably a foot from being a foot. That's how close it was. I made birdie there.

Then 16, perfect shot, wrong club, went long, straight over the flag, missed about a six-footer there for par.

17, driver, 6-iron, to about ten feet, made that.

And then 18, two good shots. I hit a little three-quarter 7-iron.

Q. What was that off the tee on 16 you hit over the flag?

STEPHEN AMES: That was 1.

Q. How much do you know about hockey during your life? Have you kind of been forced to become a fan by being in Canada?

STEPHEN AMES: I wouldn't say I was forced. When I take time off, it's nine weeks off at home in hockey season time, so I'm looking for something to do because I can't play golf. A couple of my friends took me to some games the first couple times and I was hooked, the atmosphere of it, and of course a lot of the owners of the Flames and a lot of the players all play golf, so that mutual relationship has come through, and then of course Penworth is the one of the main sponsors of the Saddle Dome. When I go home I do a lot of entertaining, also, through the club and through the management, also, so it's been good.

Q. Did you pay any attention to hockey growing up?

STEPHEN AMES: No, I played more football than anything else. I knew about hockey but I never watched it.

Q. What's your second favorite hockey team?

STEPHEN AMES: Second favorite?

Q. I'm assuming the Flames are first. If you don't say they're your favorite you're going to be in trouble.

STEPHEN AMES: I'd have to say it would be the Toronto Maple Leaves.

Q. Have you played golf with any of the Flames?

STEPHEN AMES: I've played a lot of golf with the Calgary Flames alumni, the old guys, a lot of the guys who won in 89, Otto, Jim Peplinski. I do a couple days a year with Jim Peplinski. The list goes on. I haven't had the opportunity to play with Jerome yet, but we've talked about it a couple times.

Q. How old were you when you moved to Canada?

STEPHEN AMES: I've been there for 11 years now.

Q. A couple guys that have played with you lately said they would be very surprised if you didn't win soon --

STEPHEN AMES: I have that feeling, also. I think the confidence is oozing out of me now. I'm starting to feel that way. My commitment to the game, my commitment to the shots. It feels different. I'm free-wheeling it, going at flags I normally wouldn't go at, standing over the golf ball without a care in the world where this goes. There's the flag, hit it, just get on with it. It's nice. It's a hell of a lot easier to play golf, that's for sure. Before, I was always worried if this was the right club, I don't want to hit this too far, all those things would come into my mind. I've started working with Allan Fine this year.

Q. When did that change?

STEPHEN AMES: At the start of the year. He's a bit shocked how quickly I've picked it up and gone with it.

Q. He's going to make less money. You got well too quick.

STEPHEN AMES: I'm going to make less money. I've got to pay him off (laughter).

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Stephen.

End of FastScripts.

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